The Hurt Home project (3050 R St.) in Georgetown will be brought before the D.C. city council on July 13, after newly proposed renovation plans received a positive consensus from Georgetown residents at a July 1 meeting at Hyde-Addison Elementary School.
The Hurt property, which is owned by the city and once operated as a foster care center and school for the blind, was the sole topic of the meeting, which included Georgetown residents, D.C. officials and the developing team interested in taking on the project.
Members of the community were able to hear the most recent plans for the building from the Argos Group, the lone developer that answered the city’s request for proposal on the property last year. The proposal would develop condominium units within the building while preserving its historic exterior.
Originally, there was a high amount of negativity among community members concerning the number of units the Argos Group planned to develop, said Jack Evans, the District’s Ward 2 councilmember.
Argos’ original plan included 41 units. However, in response to residents’ concerns over the past year have reduced that number to 15 units. Units are expected to be between 1,400 and 1,900 square feet, and each unit will be allotted two parking spaces, according to Gilberto Cárdenas, a principal at the Argos Group.
The smaller amount of units will allow the developer to remove additions added to the building in the past, which will restore the Hurt Home to its original appearance, Cárdenas said.
“We’re actually going to make the footprint of the building smaller,” he added.
In addition, three of the 15 units will be Affordable Dwelling Units, as required by D.C. law. One of these three units will be reserved for the blind or visually impaired as a tribute to the building’s history.
Freddie Peaco, from the D.C. Council of the Blind, said she was excited about the project, but expressed disappointment there was only one unit built especially for the blind or visually impaired as the need for appropriate and affordable units for such residents is so great. Elements such as carpeting, lighting and textured surfaces help blind and visually impaired residents to live independently, Peaco said.
“All of these things make them accessible. They not only add to the value of the property, but to D.C.,” Peaco said.
During the meeting, Georgetown residents suggested an addition of visitor parking spaces to keep cars out of the street. Developers said they will work with a traffic study specialist to solve other traffic concerns as well.
Visual impact was one of the most wide-spread concerns. Developers emphasized they will return the building to its original appearance as much as possible, and are planning to add landscaping to about half of the back of the site to improve the view from Dumbarton Oaks and the surrounding neighborhood.
“It will have almost no visual impact as far as additions or parking. It is set way back from property lines,” Suman Sorg, the principal architect of Sorg Architects who worked on projects such as Cady’s Alley and Phillips School, said. “It’s going to take back the building to the original.”
Residents were also assured that the site will be safe. The Argos team is exploring options for security once the units have been completed and there will be security on duty daily during the construction process. However, the fact that the building will no longer be vacant is already moving toward a safer neighborhood, according to the team.
“An active building is the best thing we can do for the security of the area,” project developer Philip Anderson said.
Perhaps the most vocal concern was the financial backing of the project. Cárdenas assured residents that the project has “a very strong financial backing” through Potomac Investment Properties, one of the largest real estate developers in the city.
“We are at 100 percent of the cost and 100 percent of the equity,” hesaid. “We are going to need debt financing but we have letters of support, letters of intent.”
Cárdenas added that community support was a top priority in this project.
“One thing we will never do is impose something on the community,” he said.
At the meeting, ANC 2E Chairman Ron Lewis gave his vote of confidence to the project.
“This developer has been one of the most receptive to community input I have ever seen,” Lewis said.
The restoration is expected to take about a year, according to the development team.